Six Feet Under, This is Us, Parenthood, Mad Men, TransParent, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad… Is it just me or has TV just gotten skillfully entertaining lately?

If you’re like me, you love TV or movies, but you worry that you could be using that time in a more productive manner.  Your concern makes watching TV a guilty pleasure and not an enjoyable, relaxing event.  Look, I get you – there are MUCH MORE important things to be doing with your time.  It’s true.  But remember, the more rested, relaxed and rejuvenated you are, the more energy you have to advocate for your favorite cause and the more excitement you can devote to self-improvement.

TV isn’t only bad news.  Really good TV shows and movies can:

  • Educate us
  • Inspire us
  • Unite us for a specific cause
  • Improve us (My massive celebrity crush on Jillian Michaels does, on occasion, succeed in getting me to the gym when I’m feeling unmotivated.)
  • Challenge our current perspective
  • Console us
  • Relax us
  • And so much more…

In smaller doses, it can be a therapeutic activity.  Great.  So, why is it so bad to watch TV?

Well, it is a sedentary hobby.  There are also those times when you get sucked in and do not move from the couch for 3 days until the end of your Harry Potter binge…

Okay, look – if you’re watching TV all day and never socializing or moving, nothing will make this a healthy habit.  Sorry to disappoint.  If you’re not sleeping well, not eating well, never exercising and never visiting with friends or family, there is only so much that any professional can do to help.  At some point, you must take responsibility for your health.  No one can do that for you.  Even the health-oriented routines in my 10 suggestions below won’t make up for living a healthy lifestyle, but they may start you down that path.

In the meantime, if you’ve created a routine around relaxing to the news or a well-scripted TV show in the evening, let that time be your reminder of the healthy routines you would like to create.  It’s a simple hack – use your less healthy routines to develop structure around a new beneficial groove.

Rather than consider my sedentary evening routine an unhealthy endeavor, I’ve decided to make watching TV a part of my health regime.  This is how you can do it with me!  Choose 1 or 2 of these suggestions to adopt during the first 10 – 30 minutes of watching TV or create some of your own.

So, let’s dig into this together! Here are 10 Ways to Make Watching TV a Healthier Habit!

  1. Self-massage – Give yourself a foot massage or a neck massage. Regular self-massage relaxes the muscles and tissues.  Frequent foot massages can help your feet age gracefully and may prevent knee, hip and lower back issues, and they feel great!  Use a foam roller, tennis ball, thera-cane or tens unit if you like or if you have been encouraged to do so by a healthcare practitioner.  Oh, and try this – put two tennis balls in a sock and tie it shut.  Now place each tennis ball on either side of the spine.  Roll this device up and down your spine.  Use it in your hips and glutes, or any other place that aches.
  2. Herbal Tea – Herbal teas relax the nervous system after a long day. Depending on your choice of herbs, they boost the immune system, support the respiratory system, improve blood flow in the body, and so much more.  Choosing one herbal tea to drink each evening can be a fun and rewarding process.  If you’d like to drink a medicinal herbal tea, set up an herbal consultation with Light & Dark Acupuncture.
  3. Exercise – Many people feel that their exercise routine goes by more quickly and less painfully if they’re watching a movie on the treadmill. Some individuals avoid this, citing the need to be present with their workout so they can push harder and reap larger benefits.  If gym TV watching isn’t your style, perhaps you could knock out a few crunches during the first 15 minutes of your favorite TV show.  Or push ups.  Or burpees.  Never mind – scratch that – burpees are torture.
  4. Breathing Exercises – Any individual with asthma should consider this an important routine to develop. Breathing exercises assist a host of respiratory disorders, but whose got time to sit and breathe for 20 or 30 minutes?!  If you’re struggling to find the time to practice breathing exercises, commit to doing it for the first 10 minutes of your T.V. time each night.  Set a reminder in your phone if you need help remembering.  You can breathe and count while the scenes from the last episode play.  The drama won’t get good enough to cause gasping for several minutes, so you’re set.
  5. Stretch – My grandpa used to lay on the floor every night after dinner with his hand on his stomach. I remember joining him a couple times.  If you keep your floor clean, laying on it can feel quite relaxing.  You can twist into yoga poses or focus on extending through specific muscles that feel tight.  This is also that time to do the “10 stretches that will cure your psoas and piriformis pain!” or any other specific therapeutic stretches you’ve found.  If you suffer from any kind of pain, look up specific stretches for that type of pain, or get some suggestions from your acupuncturist, chiropractor, doctor, physical therapist or other professional.  Countless clients struggle to remember to do their therapeutic stretches daily.  Use TV time as a reminder to do them!  After a couple weeks, you’ll stop thinking, “I can’t wait to zone out and watch TV,” and starting thinking, “I can’t wait to lay down and stretch out while I watch my show!”
  6. Healthy Snack – Snacking is not the right suggestion for everyone. However, if you’re someone who lacks healthy vegetables and fruits in their diet, or doesn’t get enough protein or healthy fats, committing to a healthy snack as you enjoy your routine movie time is a great idea.  Healthy snacks can indeed be delicious– veggies and hummus, steamed purple cabbage with cinnamon and oregano (you won’t regret it), avocado with lime, salt and curry powder.  They take a little prep time, but if you need to create a habit of eating healthy, you can use this already-created “TV time” routine to remind you that it is “healthy snack time.”
  7. Drink Water – Yep. I said it. So did your mom.  And your friend.  And some random person who overheard you saying something at the grocery store.  It’s true, drinking water is good for you.  I don’t think we need to argue this.  But getting into a pattern of doing it regularly can be challenging.  Let’s make it easier! Get a large water bottle and fill it up before your show.  Put a rubber band around the outside of the water bottle.  Each time you drink, move the rubber band down to the level that the water is at.  This way you can see from the outside of your bottle exactly how much is left.  Finish the bottle.  Fill up another one if you have the bladder for it.  During each commercial break look at your bottle to see where your water line is and gauge if you’re meeting your goal!
  8. Laugh – Well, this one’s a no brainer. Laughter really is the best medicine for almost anything.  It masks physical pain, frustration, anxiety, heartache – whatever your ailment.  The benefit may be temporary, but it is potent medicine nonetheless.  “Laughter stretches and relaxes the linings of your arteries, allowing blood to flow freely.” (Harrar, Sari, Pearson & Victoria, 2013).  So, watch a funny show or movie.  Find one that specifically fits your sense of humor and stick with it til the end.
  9. Cuddle – Physical connection fosters empathy and bonding and it is also great for the heart.  Oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone” because it is released during skin-to-skin contact.  It reduces blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system’s response to stress (“Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects,” n.d.).  Hold someone you love because it’s heart healthy! You know what might be even better than cuddling with a chosen human?  Cuddling with a furry, warm pet.  If you’ve got one of the cuddly pet types, now is your moment.
  10. Relax – You can do one or all the self-improvement-oriented suggestions above, but don’t forget to take some time to relax. Life is moving at a fast pace and we are doing our best to keep up with it.  Sometimes we need a break, and it’s okay to take one.  So, after you’ve worked out and stretched and given yourself a neck massage, just relax and get lost in the explorative world of arts and entertainment.

So, a quick disclaimer – be sure to use your brain and a little discretion if you’re going to take this advice.  There’s a diverse group of people reading this blog and not every one of these suggestions will work for each of them.  If you can’t reach your feet, don’t try to give yourself a foot massage.  If you can’t get up off the floor, you probably shouldn’t lay on it to stretch.  If you wake 13 times per night to urinate, don’t drink a jug of water before bed.  If you tend to have issues with overeating or emotional eating, maybe snacking is not your jam – I like puns.  Don’t hate on my puns.  If you’re six feet under, you can’t do breathing exercises, so that’s out.

Being “healthy” is not about being the best at every health goal.  It’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve got.  It’s about doing just one new thing each day to ensure your longevity.  It’s about figuring out what works for you, what motivates you, and using that to reach your goals. So, find the health and fitness goals that resonate with you. Use the routine that you have already created around television to build a routine around your goals for wellness.  Before you even close this article, set cell phone reminders or alarm clocks to hold yourself accountable, in case you forget everything you just read the second you close it.

Cheers to your process and best wishes in your health journey!

References

Harrar, Sarí, Pearson & Victoria (2013). “30 Days to a Healthier Heart.” Prevention. 00328006, Vol. 65, Issue 2. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=1730cd10-abd8-4775-b3da-f01f71287ae1%40sessionmgr102&vid=20&hid=115&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=87376499&db=awh

Sahelian, Ray. (n.d.). “Oxytocin Hormone Benefits and Side Effects.” Retrieved from: http://www.birthingandbreastfeeding.com/uploads/5/5/3/2/5532100/oxytocin_and_bonding.pdf